Bringing your dog to work may cut your stress level and provide you with a higher sense of job satisfaction, a small study says.

Seventy-six employees of a service, manufacturing and retail company located in Greensboro, N.C., were studied over the period of a week to determine their stress and job satisfaction levels with and without their dogs in the workplace. The firm is dog-friendly, with approximately 20 to 30 employees bringing their dogs to work each day.

Workers’ stress levels were assessed by researchers through surveys and saliva samples, which measured cortisol, a hormone that increases in the body when a person is stressed. Employees were placed in three groups: those who brought their dogs to work, those who did not have dogs and those who had dogs but had left them at home.

Though significant differences in the cortisol levels of the employees were not noted by the researchers, self-reported stress levels varied considerably.

The employees who had brought their dogs to work reported the lowest stress levels, followed by those employees who did not have dogs. "Stress patterns for dog owners who did not bring their dogs to work appeared to consistently rise during the day, and their stress ratings were significantly higher than the dog-present group by the afternoon and at the end of the day," the study reads.

"Self-reported stress levels on the days the dog-present group left their dogs at home mirrored those of the group not bringing dogs to work, and these differences were significant."

Employees at the company also reported higher levels of job satisfaction than a reference group they were measured against, according to the authors. "The effect of pets in reducing the impact of stress and enhancing communication found in other settings may extend to the workplace," said principal investigator Randolph Barker, a professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University's business school.

The authors suggest organizations consider adding a dog-friendly clause to their employee benefit packages.

However, they caution that organizations need to weigh the positive impacts of bringing dogs to work against the negative ones, such as improper dog behaviour, dirtiness and noise.

The study is published in the March issue of the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.